On Wednesday the Spokesman-Review and the Guardian published an update on Rep. Matt Shea's relationship to right wing extremist groups who are actively preparing for holy war.
Shea is a Republican state representative in Spokane Valley who wants to secede from Washington in order to found a new Christian theocracy called Liberty, and who believes that Muslims and antifa have joined forces in an attempt to establish "counter-states" inside the U.S.
Last year Shea wrote and distributed a document called "the Biblical Basis for War," which instructs Christians to "kill all males" if their opponents (gay people and those who support abortion) do not "yield" following the collapse of the American government, which Shea believes is imminent.
Though Shea tried to distance himself from the implication of that document—namely that he's an elected official fomenting holy war against other American citizens—newly unearthed emails show he was an early booster of a militia called "Team Rugged," which aims to train child soldiers to "fight against physical enemies" based on the guiding principles of pastor John Weaver, a racist who has "recently become a leading proponent of training Christians for armed battle," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Back in 2016, a guy named Patrick Caughran asked Shea to promote his burgeoning platoon by sharing his Team Rugged Facebook page and by hooking him up with a secessionist radio host named Jack Robertson.
Here's how Caughran described his organization to Shea at the time, according to the Spokesman: “The entire purpose behind Team Rugged is to provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men...Everything about it is both politically incorrect and what would be considered shocking truth to most modern Christians. There will be scenarios where every participant will have to fight against one of the most barbaric enemies that are invading our country, Muslims [sic] terrorists.”
Caughran goes on to write that members of Team Rugged "will learn combatives, the use of a knife in defense, close-quarters shooting with rifle and pistol and how to work effectively in teams of 2, 3 and 4," Caughran added later on in the email.
Knowing all that, Shea obliged on both counts, telling Caughran he would promote the group on his own Facebook page and pass along his information to Robertson.
Shea would later go on to praise Team Rugged in an interview he published on his Facebook page:
Here's a Team Rugged member, describing the group as a school for young men "to be effective in Christian warfare."
Shea's response: "I love the fact that you guys look like almost an acrobatic special forces team out there today." pic.twitter.com/jXwjTN10UF
— Kevin Kim (@NewsWithKevin) August 14, 2019
Yesterday, a former Shea supporter shared a video from what he claims was Team Rugged's Facebook page, which was taken down after the article ran in the Guardian. In the video, a young man appears to endorse a particularly disturbing strategy. "If all else fails a suicidal charge will get you something, usually," he says. Anyone else old enough to remember the days when conservatives accused Obama of indoctrinating the youths by encouraging them to do well in school?
This is directly from Team Rugged's facebook page. Kids talking about committing suicide for the "patriot cause". This is weaponized Christianity. This is no different than what Isis teaches their youth. It is evil, and it has to stop. @jtwilcox111 when is it enough? pic.twitter.com/jhksFIdkgv
— Jay Pounder (@JayPounder) August 15, 2019
The local sheriff in Spokane compared the group to Hitler Youth, according to the Spokesman.
Though all of this seems alarmingly dangerous if not illegal, especially in a world where young men are quoting Republican talking points and then massacring minorities, Shea will likely face no political consequences.
He faced no political consequences in 2007, when his ex-wife accused him of being "physically and emotionally abusive" in divorce filings. He faced no political consequences in 2012, when he pulled a loaded handgun on a driver in an act of road rage. And he faced no political consequences when he said all of this:
• He believes "there is no difference between Planned Parenthood and what Dr. Josef Mengele did in Germany in the 1940s."
• He recently made up quotes from the Founding Fathers in a pro-gun bill he introduced in Olympia.
• In North Idaho, he urged people to stock up on ammo for the "inevitable collapse."
• He visited the Bundys—both in Nevada and in Oregon. His name was also invoked by militants in Wednesday night's call from the Oregon refuge.
• He worries FEMA shelters could be "used for something other than emergency relocation in the event of a natural disaster [like internment camps] because of centralized federal control."
The people of Spokane Valley knew all of that in 2018, and yet he won his seat that year by 15 points.
After dragging their feet, the Washington State House hired a former FBI agent to investigate Shea, who was recently caught on a group chat with Robertson and Malheur "occupier" Anthony Bosworth, according to the Guardian, promising to use his powers to run background checks on his own constituents. Those two men suggested perpetuating "acts of extreme violence" on women and communists in that chat. The report is due at the end of September.
House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox told the Associated Press that he thought it was "appropriate to investigate threats of political violence" but that "you can’t investigate people’s political beliefs or their political associations," suggesting that the Republican leadership doesn't really care who its members party with, including potential Christian terrorists, white supremacists, or other right-wing ideologues who seem to gravitate to the Republican party for some reason.